debkafile Exclusive: Bashar Asad propositions Israel in hope of getting his family off the hook of an international trial in the Hariri case

According to Al Arabiya television, quoting Western sources, the latest Syrian president’s overture came in a personal letter fired off to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert offering talks without pre-conditions.
Olmert has received no such letter. debkafile Middle East sources disclose that a group of British, German, Spanish and American low-grade volunteer middlemen, most former intelligence officials and academics, is pushing with all its might to develop a track for bypassing President George W. Bush by pushing Syria and Israel into talks. The logic behind this initiative is that while such talks are going on, it will be hard for the international community including the UN to say: Stop: the Asads must stand trial for assassination and terrorism. And if the talks are successful, they might confer enough respectability on the Syrian ruler to make the Bush administration overcome its opposition to engaging Damascus.
Syria’s first lady Asmah Asad is also very active in these exchanges.
debkafile‘s sources stress that they have covered nowhere as much ground as indicated by the statements and leaks from Damascus. Reports that the Syrian ruler has no preconditions for talks are inaccurate. This concession would apply only to any informal contacts prior to formal negotiations, a stage known in diplomatic parlance as Track 2. Neither has Asad ever promised to stop sending arms to Hizballah. He only told the Western middlemen, the presumed sources of the al Arabiya leak, that Syria does not control Hizballah but does have influence with Hamas.
A good example of Track 2 was the first contacts between Israeli, Palestinian and European academics, without their governments’ sanction, which ultimately led up to the 1993 Oslo Accords. In the present case of Syria, Track 2 has brought together non-official persons from different countries, veterans of the government or military, and academics, who are close to their own governments and intelligence agencies. Many have established or joined think tanks, consultancies, workshops, forums and centers of one kind or another in their areas of interest.
debkafile‘s sources name the live wires behind Asad’s latest peace offensive:
Alastair Crook, the ex-British MI6 agent who set up the British clandestine network in the Palestinian Authority in the time of Yasser Arafat. Crook, who has lost some of his important connections in British intelligence, is working hard to get Hamas internationally recognized.
Asma Asad’s British family connections, through which the Syrian president conveyed his consent to Track 2 getting underway, provided British prime minister Tony Blair was informed of and consented to the process. However Asma and her relatives failed to win this consent. This led to the suspension of the intensive burst of official, high-level communications which Damascus and London exchanged in September and October. A Blair visit to Damascus before year’s end was then very much on the cards.
Asad wanted Blair aboard the initiative as the most senior Western statesman able to rescue his close family from having to stand in the dock of an international tribunal at the Rafiq Hariri assassination trial. Blair sidestepped this role.
Mark Perry, an American who is a former adviser to Yasser Arafat, works with Alastair Crook in the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum, which fosters dialogue between policy-makers and Hizballah.
<Miguel Moratinos, Spanish foreign minister and another European, who took a number of tentative steps but sparked no responsive chord in Damascus.
A group of German businessmen and former intelligence officials with strong connections in Damascus.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Font Resize
Contrast